(Inspiration comes from: “The Heart of Yoga”)
Yoga is a practice of observing yourself without judgement. Asana translates as “posture.” The word is derived from the Sanskrit root as which means “to stay,” “to be,” ‘to sit,” or “to be established in a particular position.” An asana has two important qualities – steadiness/alertness and the ability to remain comfortable in a posture. You could take this concept off the yoga mat and into your daily life. Ask, “am I being steady, alert, and comfortable within the position I am in?”
When we practice asanas there is a natural starting point where we begin, just the same as for anything else in life. The starting point for our practice is the condition of our entire being at that present moment. Because we are all changing constantly – our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our energies – even the exact same sequence of postures done in the same way will be a different experience every single time we do them. It is helpful for us to know – be aware – of our whole self so that we can advance step by step, developing our practice in accordance with our abilities.
Developing a yoga practice (life practice) according to this idea is referred to as vinyasa krama. Krama is the step, nyasa means to place, and the prefix vi- translates as “in a special way.” This concept tells us that it is not enough to simply take a step; that step needs to take us in the right direction and be made in the right way.
Adapted from “The Heart of Yoga”
How does our perception work? We often determine that we have seen a situation “correctly” and act according to that perception. In reality, however, we have deceived ourselves, and our actions may bring misfortune to ourselves or others. Just as difficult is the situation in which we doubt our understanding of a situation when it is actually correct, and for that reason we take no action, even though doing so would be beneficial. In yoga terminology, this is called Avidya – literally meaning “incorrect comprehension.” The opposite is Vidya, “correct understanding.”
Our incorrect comprehensions are very rooted in us because we often live life through a series of many unconscious actions and ways of perceiving that we have been carrying out for years. As a result of these unconscious responses, the mind has become more and more dependent on habits until we accept the actions of yesterday as the norms of today. Such habituation in our action and perception is called Sam Skara. These habits cover the mind with Avidya, as if obscuring the clarity of consciousness with a filmy layer.
If we are sure we do not clearly understand a given situation, generally speaking we do not act decisively. But if we are clear in our understanding we will act and it will go well for us. Such an action stems from a deep level of perception. In contrast, Avidya is distinguished by superficial perception. I think I see something correctly, so I take a particular action and then later have to admit that I was mistaken and that my actions have not proved beneficial. So we have two levels of perception: One is deep within us and free of this film of Avidya, the other is superficial and obscured by Avidya. Just as our eye is transparent and clear and should not itself be tinted if it is to see colors accurately, so should our perception be like a crystal-clear mirror. One goal of yoga is to reduce this film of Avidya in order to perceive and act correctly.
By Stephen Cope, Senior Teacher at Kripalu Center
Kripalu Center is situated just across the street from Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. From early on in my tenure at Kripalu, I found myself wandering across the street, sometimes every night, to watch conductor Seiki Ozawa’s artistry and hear the genius of musicians like Yo-Yo Ma, Peter Serkin ad Kathleen Battle. What a treat!
Gradually, I began to notice something interesting – something that linked my daytime yoga practice with my nighttime revels at Tanglewood. These artists routinely entered into profound states of concentration. I recognized these states because they were precisely the same states cultivated in yoga and meditation – the same states I was cultivating in my own practice. What a surprise! I also noticed that the concentrated states into which the musicians entered affected not only themselves, but the audience as well. There was a profound “field effect” that extended to the thousands of people participating through listening.
All contemplative paths cultivate the mind’s natural capacity to focus awareness. Yoga and meditation systematically expand and deepen this ability. In highly concentrated states, attention becomes one-pointed. External, distracting sensory input is completely tuned out. As the mind penetrates the object of its attention, the very architecture of the mental process is transformed. The stream of thought becomes laser-like, narrowed but highly organized. All extraordinary human endeavors involve this same quality of concentration. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “what makes a man is great concentration of effort.” “Winners focus, losers scatter,” says Stephen Covey, author of the acclaimed Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Yogis have another way of saying this that better conveys the spirit lying behind most extraordinary achievements: When you bring all of your energy and commitment to the table, God shows up. When you fully commit to one path, to one endeavor, then the Universe somehow responds. Mysterious doors open. We discover powers we did not know we had. Unseen beings come to our aid. We experience unboundedness – a mystical connection with the whole field of mind and matter – and act not from the individual personality but a state of unified mind.
I believe everyone has the capacity for extraordinary living. All that is required is that we bring our focus, skill, and energy together to serve on purpose. If we do it, it can lead to astonishing powers of body, mind, and spirit – powers that are note “ours” in any sense of the word, but which we simply channel into worthy endeavors.
“Men grind and grind in the mill of truism, and nothing comes out but what was put in. But the moment they desert the tradition for a spontaneous thought, then poetry, wit, hope, virtue, learning anecdote, all flock to their aid.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
What a beautiful thought. Stay with tradition and you ensure that you’ll always be the same, but toss it aside, and the world is yours to use as creatively as you choose. Become your own judge of your conduct and learn to rely on yourself/spirit to make present-moment decisions. Cease leafing through a lifetime of policies and traditions for an answer. Sing your own song of happiness in any way that you choose, oblivious to how it is supposed to be. – Dr. Wayne Dyer
I have a love for YOU – and it has nothing to do with anything you can give me. By giving, I “get” or am nourished from something way more powerful than what any human can ever give to anyone anyway. It is amazing how much we get back when we simply love. I simply love. Or work towards unconditional loving every single flippin day. I’m human, of course, and fall into judging and selfish behavior…. BUT thank you for allowing me “in” to love you…..exactly for who you are and exactly how you show up in life in this moment…..and thanks for your unconditional love of me.
(check out this artist on Etsy by clicking the image above).
By Thomas Moore, Soul Mates: Honoring the Mysteries of Love and Relationships
A major part of caring for the soul of the family involves doing whatever is necessary to honor its sacredness, but there are other ways, too. A family is a form of community and so we could discover ways to honor both self and other in it. Gatherings of a family help nurture the group aspect, and it is equally important to respect and promote the individuality of the members. It often happens in families that one member lives a life quite different from the rest, or sometimes one member will be visited by extraordinary difficulty that may seem unusual to everyone else. These occasions are fertile opportunities to care for the family soul by responding to the individual, knowing that the soul manifests itself more in unique expressions than in what is normal and expected.
We care for the soul of the family by allowing it to reveal itself gradually over many years, in the individuals who make up the family and in the family as a whole. Soul is not a static object, but an endless source of changing life. One reason it is difficult to live a soulful life is that it isn’t always assuring to be confronted with change. Because soul is usually in movement, forward or backward, it’s necessary to observe it carefully. We might watch with interest as our parents or grandparents go through life changes, deal with illness and crisis, and find some of the goals they are seeking. We might notice the flowering of our brothers, sisters, and cousins as they ride the bumpy road of soul-making. We might be fully present to our children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and our godchildren, not interfering as they find their way, but always offering involvement: our care, our attention, and our stories of experience.
We might see the family spirit and myth alive within ourselves, being fulfilled once again in a unique way, and, loyal to that spirit, we might be proud of it and weave it consciously and artfully further into our lives.
Let soul emerge on its own, tend it in times of blockage and wounding, and to honor and celebrate its slightest manifestations and modest initiations. This ordinary entity, the family, may show itself to be one of the most powerful creative forces in our lives.